It's been a while, hasn't it?
Well, let's start with what is probably the most exciting news first: we got original music mothafuckaaaaaaas
Gonna do more of an update later with recorded first stage proto footage (it's in the balancing stage, 1:40 seconds long with trimming and tweaking to be done everywhre), but thought I'd send this to a few friends before then.
Opening/Title Theme: http://www.mediafire.com/file/e9iq45o777qfk29/LMD.ogg
First stage theme: http://www.mediafire.com/file/anqbtymktt8trdk/TB.ogg
Composed by GenesisKeys
Also demonstrated in the video below.
I've had these for about 2 months, but wanted to save 'em for the next big update. I couldn't resist blabbing to a few friends here and on Steam, as well as #gamedev on the Shmups Discord, so this probably isn't news to everybody.
Besides that, the other big part of this update: Stage 1 Prototype footage!https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Qp7l7fvEfw
Normally I would do youtube annotations for all the scoring tricks and nuances to it, but I'm tired and it's 7 am so I'll just do them here.
This wave encompasses squads of 3 zakos that spawn in a semi random pattern. Every even squad spawns in the middle of the screen, and every odd spawns randomly to the left or right. Reacting quickly and killing them quickly will result in 1-2 additional squads appearing. The very last one will always spawn in the center of the screen, the following wave also uses a left/right random choice, so it forces you into the middle as it begins to make your time to reach either one "even".
A "Drop Ball" enemy spawns from either the left or right, with the next one always alternating to the other side. Killing them extremely quickly (before they fire, think quickshot, Raiden Fighters style) greatly reduces the time until the next one spawns.
The minimum number of drop ball spawns is 2, but you can trigger up to 6 if you react and move fast enough. I designed the sixth drop ball so that it will spawn and begin to move before you can reach it for a melee attack, forcing you to carefully aim the boomerang to hit it.
The zakos are actually static, they are based on a sine wave that shortens to bring you towards the center ("even", again) before each drop ball spawn. There times are also reduced by rapid death.
Sine wave enemies spawn rapidly. It's difficult, though possible, to kill all of them with your main shot. But this wave was designed for "Judgement" on an optimal run. It is harder than it looks to nail all of the marked zakos with the aiming cursor, but successfully doing it will let you annihilate the entire wave and also speed kill the following two tanky enemies for a massive bonus.
Tanky dudes spawn. They have two patterns. Up to 3 pairs can spawn. if you defeat all 3 of them before the next wave is set to trigger, the extremely fast moving zakos will show up.
I designed it so that you would: kill the first pair with Judgments Ult. Kill the second two with melee attacks and a risky "rush" through the red lasers to hit the second one. And finally an agressive strategy and kamekaze attack vs the third pair.
Afterwards, you'd need to use Null Judgement's homing shots and clones with some finesse to kill all the zakos, since they're too numerous and too spread out for your main shot.
This wave was scripted somewhat complex. The wave becomes more rapid with time.
The "random spray" tank enemies spawn very rapidly but there can be only 1-2 on screen at a time, so killing them immediately with a melee can boost your score immensely.
The zakos that use the red star pattern also have a unique system where they reduce the cooldown till the next spawn greatly when killed, but only if you can shoot them before they bounce off the walls.
The "zig zag" zakos are kind of shit and were added at the last second because I wanted to make it look more manic and recca-esque.
Lastly, the final dropping zako rush cannot begin until all the above-mentioned enemies are dead, so the faster you kill them all off, the more zakos you'll get (and more score).
Miniboss. I have a fully annotated video on this guy already.
GUESS WHO'S GETTING A NERF, ASSHOLE
I'm rather proud of the rhythm and dodging on this pattern, as far as early game stuff goes, as well as the depth. Basically half of these enemies will spawn if you aren't very precise with your movements. But aggressive and high risk action gets you more enemies and points along with more dodging.
This is an idea I've had for a while. Enemies that can be knocked into eachother for extra damage by destroying parts.
You can also destroy them with the piercing or returning effect of the boomerang, but only striking the core with the slash will be fatal.
If you're slow, only 2 waves will spawn. But 4 is possible if you know what you're doing.
Cho-Ren-Sha/Dangun style side switched repeat of the 1:04 pattern. I like it enough that I enjoy doing it again. And I like the rhythm.
Assuming you can gun them down before they shoot (which is what you'll be doing if you're scoring this optimally), this is the only truly static pattern here. As such you can squeeze a lot of extra points out of this with some frame/pixel perfect movement.
Based on that, I should note that patterns with random elements are usually balanced so that an "optimal" amount of score is the most that can be attained through proper reaction. Trying to guess won't get you more because it caps out at what you'd get for an honest reaction.
DON'T LOOK AT THIS PROTO-BOSS IT'S SHIT
There's also a new revenge and recovery mechanic when damaged. See here:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8w5waj70JVI
Kinda inspired by Garegga and Gunnail. Optimal Scoring means playing on 1 life at all times.
So about the stage: Basically, I've been working on individual enemy waves since last summer. For a long time I was paranoid that I wouldn't be able to come up with enough waves to fill a 5 stage game. But a month or two ago, I took the time to count the seconds (in frames) of all the waves I had created, and realized I already had enough for 2 stages and part of a 3rd. So now it's definitely time to start implementing and balancing them.
Speaking of which, there's still a lot of balancing and polishing to do in the prototype above. I don't use Judgment in the stage mini-boss onward because I haven't balanced the optimal route for it yet (I actually haven't balanced the optimal kamekaze attack usage for the first half either, that will come later). I also haven't worked on the boss or miniboss since last summer, so they are in deplorable states.Next update, I plan to have the stage and boss in a relatively playable state, and will be open to giving out demos to friends and those who would like to play for feedback.
I still have some momentus tasks to accomplish first. Besides all the balancing and polishing, I need to rejigger the games handling of resolution and screen size along with hud positioning, and I also plan on redoing and rebalancing the Judgment meter both based on what BIL suggested back here
and also some discoveries and learning I've managed from my own playtime with it. Ultimately it should ditch the feeling of complexity that some people have noted, and make it clear that the system bassically amounts to "SHOOT ENEMIES TO FILL METER > PRESS BUTTON WHEN METER FILLED FOR RISKY HYPER MODE AND MAYBE MORE POINTS". At any rate, the retooling I had planned will take a while.
Let's see...what else, aesthetics
I guess: Everything is still a placeholder except the previously mentioned Hagane assets. I'm going to use this update as an opportunity to try and contact him again and see if his second job has lightened up a bit. Otherwise, I'm thinking I will wait till I have at least 2-3 stages done before I commission someone new for sprite art. I actually am talking with another artist right now for something related, but that's a secret for a month or two :3
Placeholders have been working well though. Giving me a nice idea of how to actually script effects, and also an idea of what I'll ultimately probably be wanting maybe.
I nerfed the Michael Bay explosions a bit (for most zakos, at least, enemies with HP > 1 have the old messy explosion) to be a bit less intrusive and added in some new explosion routines (including one where the enemy sprite is blown backwards and explodes upon impacting a wall or top of the screen). Still testing the waters on them a bit though. There aren't a lot of bullets on stage 1, so it's hard to guage whether they're distracting or not in game after just a few days of testing.
I've also been fooling around with screenflashes and screenshake a BIT more. Been looking at various fighting games, brawlers and action platformers for reference in making things feel a bit more visceral.
For instance, when you melee an enemy, there's now a 1/4 chance of a 1-frame long white screen flash. This was inspired by Capcoms Dungeons and Dragons brawlers where you have a chance to "critical hit" on every blow, causing a flash. I always found that flashy intermittency made slashing things feel more volatile and impactful, and so far I like it in here as well. I could remove it or make it optional if you guys find it annoying, however.
Similarly, I also added a (also 1-frame long) red flash and a very brief (8 frames long) screenshake when you get damaged. This was inspired by one of the damage or death animations in Kirby Super Star. HAL always had a penchant for making 2d brawling feel violent, and I was trying to channel the same sense of brutality. I'm not sure if it distracts from the snazziness of the tech roll, though. You can see the difference in the "tutorial" video, which doesn't have it implemented yet.
I'm very much open to changing all this, and I'm still tweaking. So let me know what you think and I'll consider. Anyway, apologies if this update is once again baffingly written. I'm really tired